As the Deshaun Watson situation continues to develop, both the NFL and the Houston Police Department are now investigating the claims by more than 20 woman about the Houston Texans quarterback's acts of sexual impropriety. Some of the women have come forward publicly in recent weeks, and now, two of them are set to meet with the league to discuss their allegations.
In total, 22 complaints have been made against Watson by the group of massage therapists. Members of the group have shared similar stories about Watson reaching out via social media to hire them, only for the experiences to get extremely troubling once the massages were under way. One of the accusers claims that Watson forced her to perform oral sex on him.
The legal case against Watson, which could drum up criminal charges, has gotten the lion's share of the attention. The NFL's investigation has a bigger impact on his football career, which was already up in the air when the accusations began to come in. Watson had been trying to force a trade out of Houston, and was expected to demand one of the biggest hauls in NFL history if dealt, given his impressive play and the fact that he is just 25 years old.
Per reports, Watson was willing to hold out into the season to force a move. Now, it may be the NFL that decides whether Watson can play going forward, pending the results of special counsel Lisa Friel's investigation. Cooperation from the alleged victims gives her team much more to work with in suggesting a potential penalty for Watson.
Tony Buzbee, the lawyer for the women accusing Watson, has maintained that his clients are not seeking financial recompense from the quarterback. Watson's team has alleged that early on, Buzbee tried to land a large settlement for one of his clients, before the allegations went public.
ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio believes that a settlement could be on the horizon, based on how both sides have played things.
That’s why the claims against Watson arguably have more settlement value before the alleged victims talk to the league. If the cases are settled and if the alleged victims agree not to speak to anyone about the relevant facts and circumstances, the league’s ability to fully investigate will be dramatically hampered.
Berman also reports that “additional women” involved in the litigation have agreed to meet with the Houston Police Department. Again, a settlement could short-circuit a criminal investigation. The threat of a criminal investigation and potential prosecution in turn serves as leverage against Watson for a greater settlement.
Currently, the lawyers seems likely are posturing for settlement. Hardin’s attack on the plaintiffs is aimed at making them wobbly when it comes to their demands; Buzbee’s leaks are aimed at making Watson more willing to write significant checks in order to resolve the cases. The next question is whether the time has come for the two sides to begin to try to find an acceptable middle ground.
We'll have more on the Deshaun Watson legal situation as it continues to progress.